Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Breadwinner - Deborah Ellis

Summary: Young Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan. Because Parvana's father has a foreign education, he is arrested by the Taliban. Women cannot appear in public unless covered head to toe, go to school, or work outside the home, so the family becomes increasingly desperate until Parvana conceives a plan. (Image and summary from Powells.com)

My Review: This book was recommended to me by another educator. I think her recommendation actually built it up too much. I was slightly disappointed. The reading level is quite low for Young Adult literature. I wouldn't put it above a 6th grade reading level. It's short, doesn't have much depth, and the descriptions do not give much imagery. Because of that, it fell short in my mind. But, if I had gone into the book knowing it was for a more inexperienced reader, I might have given it more of a chance.

Much of the story is the everyday life of a girl pretending to be a boy in order to keep her family alive with money and food. While this is heroic and noteworthy, I do wonder how real it is. How long could she really have kept up such a facade anyway? And, if this is the case for young girls there whose fathers have been killed and do not have brothers to take care of their families, what do they do when they can't pretend any more? There were many unanswered questions. I realize that a young reader wouldn't be thinking these questions, but I felt it could have added more depth. That's something the story seemed to lack: depth.

It is accurate--as far as I've been educated--as to the brutality and living conditions for people in Afghanistan. This, I felt, was a great teaching tool for students who have no idea what life can be like outside of the United States.

The story seems to end short. While I understand that to be accurate the author cannot tie it all up with a happy ending, it felt like the story should have more to it. We have no idea how her sister's upcoming wedding came off, or even if it happened. We don't even know if her mother and siblings are alive. It felt like the author threw us a bone by bringing her father back to her.

Overall it's a good little--and fast because of easy readability--read. Would I recommend it to everyone? No. But as an easy reader and one that informs about the world, it's worth reading once.

Rating: 3 stars. Probably deserves a higher rating for a younger audience.

Sum it up in a phrase: Based on facts, this book informs on the war-torn life and land of Afghanistan.

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